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Juice Cleanse: The Pros and Cons of a Juicing Diet

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Juice cleanse - Dr. Axe

From boutique juice shops popping up on every corner to social media stars broadcasting their juice cleanse before and after photos across the internet, there’s no doubt that juicing is one of the newest crazes to hit the health world.

While we’re all familiar with store-bought juices, doing your own juice cleanse at home hasn’t always been as popular. These days, however, the trend has started steadily gaining traction, as proponents claim it can help fire up fat loss, heal disease and amp up energy levels. But is juicing really as good for you as its fans seem to think?

Although there are definitely benefits to juicing, there are some serious risks and side effects that need to be considered as well. Keep reading for everything you need to know before you start your juice cleanse, including some simple strategies you can use to enjoy juicing as part of a balanced diet.

What Is A Juice Cleanse?

So what is a juice cleanse exactly? Typically, a juice cleanse is a type of detox diet that involves drinking juices made from fruits and vegetables for a specific window of time. In some cases, this can be as simple as sipping on a glass of celery juice each morning. In other instances, it may involve nixing all other foods from your diet and consuming only juice for a short period.

There are lots of methods for how to do a juice cleanse as well, including either purchasing store-bought juices or doing a DIY juice cleanse with fruits and veggies that you’ve prepared yourself.

Proponents of the popular juice cleanse plan often claim that it can help increase weight loss, promote detoxification, enhance skin health and boost energy levels. However, critics are quick to point out that juice cleanses can also be incredibly expensive and are typically lacking fiber and other essential nutrients.

Types

There are many different types of juice cleanses out there. One of the most popular methods involves purchasing store-bought juices and following a pre-made plan from companies such as Suja Juice Cleanse for a specific period of time.

Alternatively, many opt to do their own raw juice cleanse at home by using a juicer and purchasing a variety of fruits and vegetables. This offers a bit more flexibility and allows you to select your own ingredients targeted to your specific needs by doing a liver cleanse or detox juice cleanse.

Some types of cleanses require you to consume only juices for the duration of the cleanse while others involve adding a few juices to your regular meals.

The duration of your cleanse can also range quite a bit, from just a few days to several weeks at a time. However, whether it’s a 10-day, 7-day, 5-day or 3-day juice cleanse, it’s important to ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional needs and enjoying a variety of healthy whole foods in addition to juicing.

Benefits

1. Provides a Burst of Micronutrients

How many of us actually eat the seven servings of fruit — and especially vegetables — daily that are recommended to promote better health and prevent chronic disease?

While it can be difficult to figure out how to sneak in a few extra veggies with each meal or snack, juicing makes it much easier. Practically any fruit or vegetable can be juiced, allowing you to get in a heap of nutrients and vitamins you probably would otherwise miss out on.

Juicing also allows you to get adventurous with the produce you consume. Most of us purchase the same few fruits and veggies we’re used to eating to prepare at home. However, juicing gives you the freedom to try new varieties without having to hunt down recipes or worry whether the rest of the family will enjoy them. Just slip it into the juicer and it’s ready for drinking.

2. Enhances Nutrient Absorption

Drinking a juice is like taking a shot of instant nutrition goodness. Because all the insoluble fiber has been removed through the juicing process, digestion becomes a lot easier on the body.

Drinking juice enables the body to better absorb the vitamins, minerals and enzymes that juice has to offer. In fact, juicing is like taking a healthy multivitamin that actually tastes good.

3. Reduces Produce Waste

A shriveled carrot or sad-looking cucumber might not make for an appealing addition to dinner, but either is excellent in juice cleanse recipes — and a great way to stop tossing out produce that’s a bit past its prime. Because 30 percent to 40 percent of food in America goes to waste, juicing is a savvy way to eliminate waste in your household while also saving you some extra cash.

Risks

1. You Probably Won’t Lose Weight

If you’re planning on going on a juice cleanse for weight loss, take note that you might find yourself feeling hungry a lot more often. It’s not just your imagination — it’s been proven that eating solid foods helps you reach satiety and feel more full than drinking meals.

This means if you’re regularly drinking juices, you might find yourself eating more food — and drinking more calories — more often to feel satisfied.

Juices also generally have little to no protein. If you’re trying to build lean muscle, a juicing diet will work against your efforts because if your body can’t get protein from what you eat, it’ll start breaking down muscle mass instead. And once you start losing muscle, your metabolism drops as well, making it harder to lose weight in the long-run.

2. May Spike Blood Sugar Levels

Even when they’re homemade, juices contain quite a bit of natural sugar, and much more than if you ate the food whole rather than juicing it. When you eat an apple as a snack, for example, you consume about 10 grams of sugar. However, making apple juice requires a whole lot more than just one piece of the fruit. Multiply that 10 grams with however many apples it takes to fill a glass, and you’re looking at a potential sugar spike.

For people with diabetes, blood sugar swings are best avoided because of their limited insulin production. And even for those people without diabetes, drastic changes in blood sugar can cause energy levels to crash once the sugar high has gone down.

Furthermore, fructose, the type of sugar found in most fruits, is processed by the liver. If you’re on an all-juice diet or juice cleanse, the organ can become overwhelmed and convert the sugar to fat instead, making you more susceptible to insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes or heart disease over time.

3. Your Body Doesn’t Need a Juice Cleanse or Detox

The body has a natural detox system built right in. Your liver filters out toxins, your lungs expel carbon dioxide, your skin pushes out sweat and your intestines excrete waste products.

For this reason, if you eat healthily most of the time, there’s no need to go on a juice cleanse or detox. In fact, switching to a juice-only cleanse can actually wind up doing more harm than good and may cause side effects like low energy levels, constipation and irritability.

4. It Can Get Expensive

Juicing doesn’t come cheap. Even if you’re making your own homemade juice cleanse, you often need double or triple the amount of ingredients to make one juice compared to if you ate the food whole. If you buy fresh, organic produce, those numbers start to add up quickly, particularly if the entire family is enjoying juices as well.

Buying the juices pre-made can get pricey, too. A bottle of raw-pressed juice from popular brands can set you back $8 a bottle. If you enjoy sipping on one juice a day, that’s over $200 a month for just one person alone.

Juicing also requires equipment that most families don’t have on hand, and a proper juicer can cost several hundred dollars. While it may be a worthwhile investment for some, it’s another cost to factor in to your juicing decision.

5. It’s Low in Fiber

Although removing the insoluble fiber when juicing does make the drink easier to digest, fiber is an important nutrient that we need in our diets. In fact, the fiber content of fruits and veggies is one of the big reasons why they’re so good for us.

Insoluble fiber, in particular, is especially important to health. Because it doesn’t dissolve, this type of fiber scrubs the digestive tract clean and gets rid of plaque and trapped toxins.

Fiber also helps slow down the absorption of sugar in the blood to help prevent those sugar spikes that juices are notorious for. When you go on a juice cleanse, you effectively eliminate high-fiber foods from your diet, which can come with more negative effects on digestive health than it’s worth.

The pros and cons of a juice cleanse - Dr. Axe

Recipes

For most people, a juice-only diet just isn’t a healthy or practical option. But juices can be a part of a balanced, nutritious diet. Here are a few ways to ensure you make the most out of your juices.

  • Make juices a part of your meal rather than the main course. Ensure you stay full by pairing a juice with some probiotic yogurt for protein or drinking a smaller serving size alongside your regular breakfast.
  • Go heavy on the veggies and light on the fruit. Increase your vegetable content and keep that excess sugar down by sticking to a 4:1 vegetable-to-fruit ratio.
  • If you normally replace a meal with juice, limit it to just a few times a week to ensure your body receives all the nutrients it needs from whole foods as well.
  • Trying to detox? Start first by removing processed foods, alcohol and added sugar from your diet. Then add in a glass of juice — remember, mostly veggies! — to add an extra dose of vitamins in addition to whole foods.

Ready to start juicing? Here are a few simple juice cleanse recipes:

Juicing vs. Smoothies

Quite often, people confuse juices with smoothies, and vice versa. To clarify, smoothies are drinks made by blending whole foods, including fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts and liquids like milk or coconut water. Though the food is blended, you still wind up consuming it in its entirety. So while that strawberry or spinach leaf might look strange after being blended, you’re still eating the entire thing.

When you juice, all of the fiber is removed from fruits or vegetables. What’s left are all the micronutrients and sugar in a liquid form; the rest is discarded. This remaining liquid is the stuff that juicing proponents consider “liquid gold.”

While the proliferation of juices bars and cold-pressed drinks is currently at an all-time high, juicing has been around for quite some time. In the 1930s, Norman Walker, a businessman and health practitioner, published “Raw Vegetable Juices,” a collection of juicing recipes. He also invented the Norwalk juicer, a version of which is still available today.

Most have also heard of the Master Cleanse, the infamous juice cleanse that first hit the scene in the 1940s which consists of a sugary lemonade mix made from maple syrup, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and water and was created by a man convicted of practicing medicine without a license.

While few people today would argue that a diet consisting of mostly maple syrup and cayenne pepper is not ideal, juicing is still a popular option. But is it right for you? In most instances, not on its own, but juicing can be a healthy addition to a more balanced, healing diet.

Final Thoughts

  • A juice cleanse is a type of “detox diet” that involves drinking juices made from fruits and vegetables for a certain period of time, which can range from a few days to a few weeks.
  • Whether it’s an organic juice cleanse, a green juice cleanse or a short-term liver cleanse, there are tons of different variations out there which differ based on the duration and ingredients used as well as whether or not whole foods are consumed as well.
  • Potential juice cleanse benefits include decreased waste, increased fruit and vegetable consumption and enhanced nutrient absorption.
  • However, juice cleanses are also lacking in fiber and high in sugar and can be expensive, unnecessary and ineffective.
  • Be sure to fill your juices with mostly veggies rather than fruit to keep excess sugar consumption under control and pair with a good source of protein to help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
  • Additionally, keep in mind that the best juice cleanse should involve making juices part of the meal rather than the main course to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients that you need to support better health.
Josh Axe

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